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Family confirms brother, sister died by drowning near FGCU Lakefront Beach

Memorial FGCU Lakefront Beach
Posted at 4:37 PM, Jul 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-06 19:29:49-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Family members have identified the two children who were pulled from Lake Como, near Florida Gulf Coast University, on Monday and confirmed that the pair died in an apparent drowning.

Relatives identified the children as 12-year-old Gabby Maria Walker and 7-year-old Jemel James ("JJ") Walker. Jemel was reportedly pronounced dead Monday. Gabby passed next, after being taken to an intensive care unit.

According to the children's uncle, Andre Melson, the children were originally from metro Atlanta but were vacationing in Florida, with their father. He said both children were full of life.

"I miss them and it’s tough just to think about," Melson said. "JJ was a very energetic little man, Gabby was such a loving person. I don’t care if she knew you, or if she didn’t know you, she was quick to run up and say “hey, I love you.”

According to statistics from Lee County Injury Prevention Coalition, drowning is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 in the state of Florida— and is the second leading cause for ages 5 to 14.

When it comes to Gabby and JJ, it's still unclear what caused them to drown.

"They went out just to enjoy the summertime," said Melson. "We got the call yesterday and I was in the room, their big sister Olivia was in the living room and she just started screaming. We jumped up like ‘what’s going on'. That’s when she got the news about what happened.”

San Carlos Park Fire Protection & Service District first revealed details about the investigation by way of a single photo posted on their Facebook page.

The photo depicts two divers conducting an underwater search, which began around 2:45 p.m. Monday.

Before being identified, JJ and Gabby were initially described as in "critical condition" and receiving treatment at a nearby hospital.

However, nearly an hour later, the sheriff's office changed the status of the case to a death investigation. Foul play is not suspected by investigators.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family during this difficult time," Sheriff Carmine Marceno said in a written statement.

FGCU also released a statement Tuesday saying:

Yesterday we experienced a tragic event on campus as two children drowned in Lake Como (North Lake Village). Our deepest sympathy goes out to the family, and we thank the first responders from several agencies for their heroic efforts.

On Wednesday, FGCU told Fox 4 that the lake is not open to the public and FGCU does not advertise its use to the public.